I’ve unabashedly fantasized about what it would be like to win the lottery and what I would do with my money. After taking the obligatory Scrooge McDuckian swim in a pool of gold, I’ll probably go on a completely self-indulgent spending spree, but at least I know I wouldn’t be the only one. Recently off her prescription medicine for her borderline personality disorder, Alice Klieg (Kristen Wiig) wins the lottery and immediately has a plan to create her own Oprah-esque talk show where where she talks all about herself. Not just herself, but also her past, current interests, sex life, and of course, swans.
With the help of her support system, consisting of her best friend Gina (Linda Cardellini), gay ex-husband Ted (Alan Tudyk), Dr. Moffet (Tim Robbins), and her parents, she navigates uncharted territory both in her life, and in the life of television, having a show like hers. With the exorbitant amount of money she is paying to the cable network/co-owner Rich (James Marsden), Alice is basically given carte blanche to do whatever (and who ever in the cases of co-owner Gabe [Wes Bentley] and show fan Rainer [Thomas Mann]) she wants with the show, much to the dismay of showrunner Dawn (Joan Cusack) and Deb (Jennifer Jason Leigh).
There is no doubt about it, this dark dramedy is very ambitious. Some may even say that in certain instances, it has “balls.” Then again, what else can you expect from a film that performs several animal castrations as a possible metaphor for Freud’s castration anxiety? The film’s narrative is a little imbalanced, but it could either be another layer added to the film to reflect the protagonist’s own mental state, or it could just be a poor pacing problem. Only director Shira Piven knows for sure. The film’s story is a cautionary tale of why you shouldn’t go off your meds right after becoming a millionaire.
The emotional exhibitionism of the television show also came off as a form of televised therapy with segments and reenactments as diverse as her changing moods. Even though some scenes may come off as caustically funny, there is always a respect for the disorder, the multiple symptoms they display, and the many difficulties they have to overcome. The only thing I didn’t find respectful or charming was how they showed the network executive all but swindle Alice of millions, while everyone else watched and let Alice get taken advantage of. You quickly forget about that because they do bend over backwards to bring her dream to life, and she does seem happy fulfilling her life’s ambition. Still, that didn’t sit too well with me.
Kristen Wiig bares it all, and I’m not just talking about it in the soul-searching performance sense. Wiig has always been an extremely funny source of humor, but where she truly seems to be thriving is on indie films with her playing some sort of comedic foil or unlikely hero. Often are comedians pigeon-holed into roles where they are meant to be over-the-top or exaggerated caricatures, but Wiig has proven she can do drama with the best of them, with the added bonus of being able to naturally inject subtle humor into her performances without it seeming out of character. Her performance alone makes this film worth watching, but the entire cast play off each to make the entire film effective in what it sets out to do, whatever that goal turned out to be.
Like the character of Alice in Welcome to Me, this film is also rich, but in a beautiful, flawed sense. The character is daring and eccentric, but never verging on caricature, and that is all thanks to the very specific skill set Wiig brings to every film. The film is all about the search for understanding (and being understood) and trying to figure out a person’s place in the world, but it is undeniable that this film should have found a place in your life, and that is on your screen (in a movie theater or on your computer screen for video on demand).
RATING: ★★★★★★★★(8/10 stars)